Spain – 2017 Highlights from the Tastings – Cataluña
This is the first of a number blog articles covering new discoveries from a number of tastings over the spring and early summer including the Fenavin Wine Fair (recently reviewed), the Viñateros tasting in London, the recent London Wine Fair as well as samples sent in from wineries. These bodegas will all be featured in the 11th editions of “Wine behind the label”, the new members subscriber database and the second edition of my comprehensive guide to the regions and bodegas of Spain “España Vino”.
The first piece here focuses on the North-East and Cataluña. As ever there is much to enthuse wine drinkers in here. This Autonomous Community (the name given for Spain’s political divisions/regions) is home to a number of Spain’s leading DO (Denominacion d’Origen) quality wine regions. Cataluña itself has its own DO. Finca Viladellops (www.fincaviladellops.com) is based in the south of the community and a small range of reds and whites is made. Garnacha is the key variety among the reds and the bodega is a member of the Terra de Garnatxes an association of top small producers of the variety across Cataluña. There is a fresh vibrant varietal example, Garnatxa and two more structured reds, which are blended with Syrah, Finca Viladellops and Turó de las Abelles. Two whites also come from Xarel-lo. The Xarel-lo XXX is from the oldest vines and of particular interest includes 30% of the very rare Xarel-lo rosé.
Autòcton Celler vineyards
We have profiled Albert Jané and his exceptional range of Acústic Celler Montsant wines already. He also has two other projects. From his home property he releases two reds and two whites of real interest under the Autòcton Celler banner. The purpose of the project is to craft wines from local varieties. As such the blends have to be labelled Vino de Mesa. Informed readers will be well aware that great wines are often made outside the confines and restrictions of established appellations. The white Autòcton and Gran Autòcton include Xarel lo, Malvasia de Sitges, Xarel lo Vermell, Macabeu. The red Autòcton Vinyes Velles comes from Sumoll and Ull de Llebe, the Gran Autòcton from Sumoll. The reds are fresh vibrant and complex, the whites zesty but complex with an old vine richness. These are characterful wines of great value (£C/£D).
Albert also makes some very stylish Ritme Celler Priorat. The wines are well priced for the appellation and include a white and three reds. The white comes from a combination of Garnacha Blanca and Macabeu and has restrained oak handling. The red Ritme comes from younger vines of Cariñena, Garnacha Peluda and Garnacha. The Plaer is a significant step up but not unreasonably priced (£E), particularly for this appellation. The top red is Etern. Again a blend of Carinena and Garnacha the vines are grown marginally lower levels of Llicorella (black slate) soils but nevertheless there is a significant mineral quality in the wine.
Ritme Celler old Priorat vines
Priorat enthusiasts will also wish to know about the range made by Família Nin-Ortiz. Ester Nin is the viticulturalist for Daphne Glorian at Clos I Terrasses and has worked on the transition there to biodynamic farming. She and her her husband Carles now have just under 8 ha under vine and make two whites, Planetes and Selma de Nin and two reds Planetes and the splendid signature red Nit de Nin, a combination of very old Garnacha and Carinena. Vinification is in an array of vessels; foudres, demi-muids or amphorae.
The Montsant DO almost engulfs Priorat, a bit like a horshoe. Celler Comunica (www.cellercomunica.com) though are based in the village of Falset, with vineyards at around 370 metres, so similar to their neighbouring DO and with soils comprising granitic soil and clay, providing for wines of density and structure. Five reds and most recently a white La Pua are made. The key red grapes are Garnacha and Cariñena (Samsó). As well as a number of fine and characterful blends there are excellent varietals, Vinya Goretti which is 70 to 80 year old Cariñena and the 100% Garnatxa Peluda, La Peluda.
Also based in Montsant, Estones (www.estones.cat) make a series of reds from Montsant and whites from Terra Alta. They have 10 ha in Montsant planted in slaty soils at an altitude ranging from 350 to 500 metres. Whites come from Batea in Terra Alta. Garnacha Blanca is important but there is also a rare, honeyed, intense Pedro Ximénez, Unic. Good value is offered in both the Petites Estones Negre and Petites Estones Blanc. The signature red is the Terces, released in magnums and from a combination of Garnacha and Samsó.
From the Costers del Segre DO, the Batlliu de Sort (www.batlliudesort.cat) bodega farm high altitude vineyards planted between 500 and 920 metres in a mix of calcareous and slate soils in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Resling and Pinot Noir are both significant. The Biu de Sort Blanc Riesling in fact includes a little Viognier as well. An attractive, fresh green-fruited style vinified in inox. Great value is offered in the Vi Bord Negre, a combination of Merlot, Garnatxa and Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo). With vibrant, forward red berry fuits, it is an approachable style with a soft rounded structure. Two Pinot Noirs are made from vines grown in calcareous soils. The lighter and more approachable is the Biu de Sort Negre Pinot Noir, the Negre de Sort is fuller, more structured with firmer tannins.
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Estones – no wine searcher links